Working Group Meeting, 6th July.

“You know, They Didn’t Always Put Spandex in Jeans”: Athletes, Agency, and Tailored Bodies

The following comes from Sarah Jacobs, who will present her paper to us on July 6th for discussion.

In this essay, I explore how a group of high-performance speed skating athletes navigate various body standards as they engage in intensive body projects. I focus on their agency in order to further academic analyses of choice in relation to the evaluation and enactment of bodily standards. In this way, this paper situates material changes to their bodies, alongside their desires, anxieties and pleasures, as generated amongst a host of – at times contradictory – normative constraints. These athletes are neither at the mercy of a singular hegemonic body standard, nor are they unencumbered by the messages and measurements of mainstream society. As I explore these tensions, I consider Emirbayer and Mische’s (1998) elucidation of agency in which they analytically disaggregate the concept into habit, imagination, and judgement. Doing so firmly situates agency within the actions of temporally positioned, cognizant social actors, without resorting to facile assessments of freedom or resistance. But what does this have to do with jeans?

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